In one of the most remote corners of the Earth below the Pacific Ocean lies the remains of spaceships. This extremely isolated location, about 2,250 km (about 1,400 miles) from land, goes by several names, including Point Nemo (Latin for “no one) and the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility. Still, it’s hard to beat “Spaceship Graveyard,” for the location that has served as the final resting place for many NASA ships over the years. “It’s a great place you can put things down without hitting anything,” said Bill Ailor, an aerospace engineer and atmospheric reentry specialist.
In an appropriate twist, residents of the International Space Station actually live closer to Point Nemo, at least when the ISS is traveling 360 km (224 miles) overhead, than any other group of people. Between 1971 and 2016, NASA and other global space organizations have crashed at least 260 spacecraft in the vicinity of Point Nemo, with nearly half of those having arrived after 2015. These crashed crafts include the Soviet-era MIR space station, more than 140 Russian resupply vehicles, several of the European Space Agency’s cargo ships, and a SpaceX rocket, a more recent arrival. Because the land-free area near Point Nemo encompasses more than 17 million square km (about 10.5 million square miles), individual spacecrafts, many of which many have broken apart in returning to the atmosphere, are difficult to track down.
In order for a new craft to be added to the graveyard, NASA or other space agencies have to time its atmospheric re-entry to facilitate a precise landing. Smaller satellites generally do not make it to a final resting place, often burning up before they even reach the water. For larger craft and satellites, it is an important safety concern that they reach a proper crash landing site in a controlled manner. Otherwise, the crashing craft could pose a serious danger to the public. For example, Tiangong-1, the first Chinese space station, is now unmoored in space, and will eventually crash to Earth. However, because the Chinese lost control of their station, they cannot predict where it will land sometime in 2018. Hopefully, it will fall somewhere as isolated as Point Nemo.
Via Business Insider